The Best Wood Chips For Smoking Compared: Hickory, Apple Wood, And Beyond

The Best Wood Chips For Smoking Compared: Hickory, Apple Wood, And Beyond

December 10, 2020 / Comments

When it comes to grilling, you can go out and buy the fanciest equipment and world-class cuts of meat. But, as all pitmasters know, undeniably tasty BBQ only needs three simple things:

Heat, time, and smoke.

And, the only way to produce that irresistible smoky flavor comes from adding wood to your grill. After all, you can’t throw ribs onto a gas grill and hope it comes out tasting smoky.

Wood chips are an easy way to add the right amount of smoke to any BBQ recipe. But be careful… 

There are several types of wood chips available, each with a unique flavor, aroma, and purpose. 

And, while choosing the wrong type of wood chip won’t ruin your meal, it might drastically alter the smoky flavor. Before you get too overwhelmed with your options, don’t worry. The BBQ masters are here to help! 

Today we’ll show you:

  • The difference is between wood chips and wood chunks
  • The top 9 wood chip types for smoking (+ which food pairs best with each option!)
  • How to select the best wood chips for your BBQ recipe

What’s the Difference Between Wood Chips and Wood Chunks for Grilling?

On the bright side, both will burn!

All jokes aside, there is an obvious, but critical difference between wood chips and wood chunks— Size.

Wood chips are smaller than wood chunks and therefore burn faster. This is why wood chips are recommended for developing a small to medium-sized smoke for 20-40 minutes at a time.

On the other hand, if you plan to smoke your meat for more than an hour, larger wood chunks will retain a flame longer. 

You can extend the burn time of wood chips by soaking them in water for 30 minutes before grilling. Just remember to drain all the water before grilling. Otherwise, you’ll douse the flame right out.

Check Before You Grill!

When choosing between wood chips and wood chunks, always check with your grill. Certain electric or gas smokers are built specifically for wood chips.

Although every Redneck knows how to start a fire, the last thing you want is an accidental fire from using the wrong type of wood!


Wood Chips for Smoking Meat: 9 Popular Types to Choose From

When it comes to wood chips and chunks, it’s not like BBQ sauce—there’s no “one type fits all” option. Sorry! 

Each type of wood chip offers a distinct flavor and aroma along with an average burn time. Check out the nine most popular types of wood chips for smoking meat.

1. Hickory 

When it comes to wood chips, hickory is your classic option. Grilling pros love to use hickory wood chips for pork items like bacon due to the sweet and smoky flavor it emits. 

While a common and affordable option, it’s also a strong one! It’s recommended that you mix hickory wood chips with another type until you determine how much of the hickory flavor you want to impart on the meat.

  • Flavor: Sweet, smoky, and strong
  • Burn Time: 40-60 minutes
  • Price: $3-$7+ for a 2lb bag
  • Pairs Best With: Bacon, Pork

Read: Grill Master Secrets: How To Use A BBQ Spray Bottle

2. Apple

If you’re cooking lighter or white meats, consider using the subtly sweet flavor from apple wood chips. Apple wood chips are the lightest smoking woods option available, in stark contrast to options like hickory or mesquite. 

With its fruity flavors and aroma, it’s also perfect for creatively smoked desserts. Since apple wood chips are one of the most expensive options on our list, you’ll want to use them for as many recipes as you can!

  • Flavor: Apple, fruity, sweet.
  • Burn Time: 20-30 minutes
  • Price: $7-$14+ for a 2lb bag
  • Pairs Best With: Fish, Chicken, Lamb

3. Cherry

Due to its mellow aroma and flavor, cherry wood chips are an ideal choice when you’re preparing to grill a variety of meats. While these wood chips are generally fruity and sweet, they also give off a little tartness unmatched by any other type of wood chip.

When you are grilling for a cookout or a full menu, you can’t go wrong with cherry wood chips.

  • Flavor: Tart, sweet, mellow
  • Burn Time: 20-30 minutes 
  • Price: $3-$8+ for a 2lb bag
  • Pairs Best With: Pork, Duck, Beef, Chicken, Veggies

4. Mesquite

If you’ve eaten BBQ in your lifetime, you know the smoky mesquite taste quite well. Commonly used for smoking beef and pork, the sweet mesquite aroma is on par or stronger than hickory, depending on your wood chip selection.

Mesquite tends to also have an earthy quality to its smoky flavor, which is why it’s easy to overwhelm more delicate meats like chicken or fish using this type of wood chip. 

Due to its strong nature, the experts all recommend using mesquite wood chips for open-air grilling with chicken, fish, and veggies.

  • Flavor: Earthy, strong, sweet
  • Burn Time: 30-45 minutes 
  • Price: $8-$13+ for a 2lb bag
  • Pairs Best With: Beef, Brisket, Pork

5. Maple

Maplewood smoked bacon, anyone? (Don’t mind us drooling…)

Smoking meat with maple wood chips results in a luscious, syrupy sweet taste that’s not overwhelming. While these wood chips have a distinct flavor and aroma, it’s more complementary than overpowering, leaving your meat retaining much of the natural flavors along with a sweet smokiness.

  • Flavor: Sweet and syrupy
  • Burn Time: 30-45 minutes 
  • Price: $6-$11+ for a 2lb bag
  • Pairs Best With: Pork, Turkey, Vegetables

6. Pimento

Pimento wood chips are a rare find, but necessary for making jerk chicken on the grill. Many also state that without using pimento wood chips, you can’t call it jerk chicken!

Pimento wood chips are imported from Jamaica and are bursting with flavors and aromas of cinnamon, allspice, pepper, and cloves for a unique taste. 

  • Flavor: Full of spice
  • Burn Time: 20-30 minutes 
  • Price: $22+ for a 2lb bag
  • Pairs Best With: Chicken, Fish, Pork

7. Oak

Lighter than mesquite and hickory but heavier than fruity woods like apple and cherry, oak wood chips are also a common choice among those who love to grill BBQ, especially beef. 

Due to its mild flavor, oak wood chips can also be mixed with fruitier wood chips or soaked in wine, bourbon, and even coffee to create a myriad of smoky flavors. Go ahead and get creative with oak wood!

  • Flavor: Mild, smoky
  • Burn Time: 40-60 minutes 
  • Price: $5-$10+ for a 2lb bag
  • Pairs Best With: Beef, Pork, Poultry, Fish, Veggies

8. Peach

Similar to apple wood, peach wood chips offer a juicy, fruity flavor paired perfectly with the tantalizing smoky aromas. Much like other fruit woods, this lighter wood is best paired with poultry or fish.

Keep in mind that it’s lighter nature does mean a shorter burn time.

  • Flavor: Fruity, sweet
  • Burn Time: 20-30 minutes 
  • Price: $7-$12+ for a 2lb bag
  • Pairs Best With: Beef, Pork, Poultry, Fish, Veggies

9. Pecan

Pecan wood chips are extremely similar in taste and behavior to hickory. The difference being that pecan boasts a more natural, nutty flavor. 

The rule of thumb goes that if your recipe will pair well with nuts, use pecan wood chips!

  • Flavor: Nutty, mellow, mild
  • Burn Time: 30-40 minutes 
  • Price: $3-$8+ for a 2lb bag
  • Pairs Best With: Beef, Poultry, Lamb

So, Which Wood Chips Should You Use?

Our list didn’t even scratch the surface of how many wood chip types you can choose from!

To help you select the right wood chips for your BBQ, we’ve created a ridiculously easy two-step process. Seriously, it doesn’t get any easier than this.

1. Consider Your Budget

Your recipe may pair really well with pimento wood chips… but are you willing to spend $20+ for a 2lb bag of wood chips imported from another country?

If you’re a BBQ-obsessed master griller getting ready to make some mouth-watering jerk chicken, go for it! But, if you’re preparing for a small family backyard BBQ, your budget might not accommodate this rare wood chip type.

Always start by identifying how much you’re willing to spend on wood chips and whittle your options down from there.

2. Pair to Your Recipe

Next, pair the right type of wood chip to your recipe. (Refer back to the previous section for help!)

For instance, if you’re whipping up a succulent Texas-style brisket for your buddies, you have to go with the classic mesquite wood! Or, if you’re grilling fish for a fancy dinner, consider opting for a fruity wood like cherry, apple, or peach.

And, if you accidentally choose the wrong type of BBQ wood chip, no sweat! The goal is to create a nice, smoky flavor that compliments your BBQ recipe. Simply use fewer wood chips, keep an eye on the flame, and you’re golden.

Choosing the Right Wood Chips for Smoking is Only the First Step to Kick-Ass BBQ

Remember, BBQ is all about heat, time, and smoke.

Now that you’ve got the smoke part covered, it’s time to bring the heat!

Add a little kick to your BBQ with our spicy, tangy, and sweet BBQ sauce. No matter what type of wood chips you use or if you’re grilling ribs, brisket, turkey, or fish, our recipe makes the perfect addition to every BBQ recipe.

Try it for yourself and taste the difference!

Checkout Our Delicious BBQ Sauces

Made from wholesome ingredients right here in the USA. BBQ sauce you can be proud to put on your table.

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Checkout Our Delicious BBQ Sauces

Made from wholesome ingredients right here in the USA. BBQ sauce you can be proud to put on your table.

Shop Now

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